Are some vegan cosmetics doing you harm?

Posted by Liz Cook on

There is a lot of assuming that goes on when people buy vegan products; we assume they are made from natural ingredients, we assume they are better for the environment, we assume that they aren't tested on animals, we assume that they are non-toxic and healthier and made by a company with high ethical standards, right?

Not so fast. Let me break it down for you.

First, what does 'vegan' actually mean when it comes to a product? It simply means the product doesn't contain any animal-derived ingredients. That's it. The rest we are assuming, and need to examine carefully.

In fact, there are many ingredients that can be included in a vegan product that are highly toxic; as long as it doesn't come from an animal then it could be included: petroleum bi-products from fossil fuels (eg mineral oil, sodium laureth sulfate, parabens, DEA and toluene to name a few), pthalates, heavy metals....Technically even your car tyres are vegan!

And they don't have to come from plants either. They could be entirely synthetic, made in a lab, and look chemically nothing like anything found in nature. They could also be derived from bacteria (that's common practice in cosmetics and perfumery these days), or be a waste product of other manufacturing.

In fact, some researchers suggest that there can be more toxic additives and ingredients in vegan products (cosmetics and food) than in non-vegan products.

So we can see just from this brief expose that vegan doesn't necessarily mean non-toxic or plant-based. But what about integrity? It should stand to reason that any company making a product branded as vegan should be values-driven. But that is not necessarily the case. Amazingly, it is even possible that some of these companies could still be testing on animals!
Of course, it's not surprising to know there are unscrupulous companies that will jump on any and every bandwagon just for fame and fortune, and it's too easy to slap the word 'vegan' on a product in bright bold letters and grab a new market. Sad but true. We see it all the time.

So now that you know, what are you to do?

Here are 4 easy steps to buying vegan products that are truly healthy, safe and plant-derived:

1. Know your own values. If what you're looking for is products are that are made from plants and nothing else, be firm on that, and know what you're looking for so you have something to measure against.

2. Look at more than the marketing. Read the whole box - the ingredients panel, the certifications - and jump on the brand's website to find out their values and what they do and don't include. Transparency should be your consumer right, but it's not, so read between the lines.

3. Look for certification and statements. Anyone can use the word 'vegan' but are they also registered cruelty-free, are they certificated natural and/or toxin-free, and are they actually claiming to be 100% natural?

4. Price is a clue. If it's super cheap (especially compared to brands you know are genuinely vegan and 100% natural) then it's probably made with lots of toxic synthetic ingredients. Real plant-derived ingredients are expensive, so the products made from them are usually more expensive too.

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